Climate change threatens coffee production

A new report from the Climate Institute shows that climate change will drive the price of coffee up while eroding its quality. Rising temperatures and extreme weather events are expected to slash the area suitable for coffee production by up to 50 per cent.

The latest report from The Climate Institute, A Brewing Storm, is a harsh wake-up call for anyone who starts their day with a cup of java. It shows how climate change phenomena, such as increasing temperature and extreme weather events, will reduce the area suitable for producing coffee by up to 50 per cent in the coming days, eroding the quality of coffee will increasing coffee prices for consumers.

Over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are now consumed every day around the world. But 80 to 90 per cent of the world’s 25 million coffee farmers are smallholders, making them among the most exposed to climate change.

“Most of the world’s coffee farmers live in a zone referred to as the bean belt,” explained Molly Harris Olson, CEO of Fairtrade Australia, which commissioned the report, “an area which comprises around 70 mostly developing countries including Guatemala, Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Ethiopia and Indonesia. Climate change is already affecting these farmers in immediate and devastating ways.”

Increased temperatures and rainfall have already increased the incidence of disease and pests affecting yields and quality, explains the report. And in already hot countries, more warming will increase the burdens on the physical and mental health of coffee producers, labourers and communities – with clear consequences on productivity.

But not all is lost. According to the report, strong climate action among commercial partners, such as Starbucks and Lavazzo, concerned groups like Fairtrade and coffee farmers can reduce the severity of climate risks.

There are also things that coffee drinkers around the world can do, said John Conner, CEO of The Climate Institute.

“The first step is to learn about these issues and the steps being taken by Fairtrade and others; the second is to take real action by choosing to buy only the brands that are carbon or climate neutral, provide a fair return to farmers and their communities while helping to build their capacity to adapt to climate change; third is to demand climate action from the coffee companies and our governments to ensure all products, business models and economies are carbon or climate neutral.”


Image credit: Olle Svensson, flickr/Creative Commons

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